God's Work

The people who found those rockets before they could be used on children and the rest of us, were doing God's work. If all they did was to prevent one more war crime here. Or forty of them.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Self-defense is worthy of praise.

Preventing a war crime is a good thing.

Protecting innocent civilians, without doing harm to other innocent civilians, is the highest act to which a government can aspire.

That is what Israel did when it intercepted a shipment of dozens of M-302 rockets bound for Gaza. The purpose of these rockets was to be able to reach every major city in Israel, and, when slamming into a 20-story apartment building with a 300 pound explosive warhead, to bring that building, and every one of the hundreds of people who may be in it, to the ground.

In the week since the capture of the rockets, along with scores of heavy mortar shells and 400,000 rounds of AK-47 ammunition, Israelis have voiced surprise, frustration and dismay at the international response to the operation. The wider world, it seems, had little or no interest in it.

Why not?

After all, news is supposed to be about confounding expectations, and it's not every day that, by international standards, Israel does something right.

Turns out, it's not that simple.

Here's what we know:

It's only natural that in a nasty new world of manicured reality, scripted reality, computer generated reality, unbidden, invasive "Suggested Posts" and full-on sham PR-as-reality, there's a healthy and reasonable suspicion of anything that smacks of worthiness, competence and even, or especially, virtue. It's only reasonable that we may quickly, self-protectively perhaps, feel the urge to just turn the channel, click elsewhere, emotionally log off.

Then there is the way journalism works. Early on, journalists learn that there's a much larger news hunger in this world for what goes very wrong, with no warning, than for what actually goes right. An airliner vanishes, a 21st century nation turns the Crimea into the 19th. We are, as the saying goes, only human. Not only is no news good news, but all too often for the journalist trying to sell a story, good news is no news.

Finally, there's the peculiar case of Israel, the Jews, and the Holy Land as a whole.

On the hard left, one of the surest signs that Israel has done something right is when prominent anti-Israel news sites and commentators ignore it altogether. So it was with the capture of the rockets.

On these sites, there is a strong sense that the road to everything Israel and Israelis do - including those things they do to help people in distress here and abroad - is paved with bad intentions.

There's a name, I've come to believe, for the idea that Israel and the vast majority of Israelis are incapable of doing good, and that all they do is motivated by selfishness and callous villainy: racism.

On the hard right, meanwhile, there is the Pollyanna Zionism of the pro-Israel-for-pay advocacy segment, lauding, applauding, showboating a fictional Greater Israel of their own imagination, while excusing away, blaming others for, or outright denying the myriad ways in which the real Israel, and flesh and blood Israelis, do objective and unjustified flesh and blood harm. There's racism here too, not least in giving Israelis a moral free ride, and ascribing to their rivals, every dark and menacing and malicious motive known to man.

In the end, the hard right does no better than the hard left at painting a valid and credible picture of Israel, managing to hold in their thrall only those who enthusiastically agreed with them in the first place.

The toughest sell for the journalist, is the unbearable idea that the whole truth and nothing but, is a swamp. No one really wants to hear that the reality of Israel is a murky soup composed, as the human soup is, of the truly honorable alongside the truly corrupt, and all shades in between.

Somewhere inside is the tzaddik who, laboring out of the limelight, practices moral values and manages to quietly, unrewarded, save this place from falling final victim to the rapacious people we so often, and so disastrously, entrust with positions of power and influence.

The Talmud teaches that this world continues to exist as a result of the efforts and abilities of but three dozen nistarim, hidden ones, secret saints, tzaddikim unknown even to themselves and to each other - certainly unknown to the rest of us – each of them too modest, and probably too busy, to believe that they are one of the Lamed Vav, the 36.

They're here, though. You can feel them. Doing good in a place that seems constructed from nothing but bad news. Working to save people, heal people, heal people from the other side, working - sometime in ways so small as to seem invisible - to head off injury and injustice, working to bring people of two terrible and wounded and despairing sides, together in coexistence.

They do God's work. And so did the intelligence and operations people of the military, whose names we won't hear and whose faces we won't see, who, without shedding blood, found those rockets before they could be used on children and the rest of us.

True, they did not solve the problem of rocket attacks. Nor did their actions obscure or alleviate or to any degree reverse the evils of occupation.

But they deserve our unalloyed praise and thanks. If all they did was to prevent one more war crime here. Or forty of them.

M-302 rockets seized by IDF forces on the Iranian ship Klos C.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

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